Understanding the Impact and Looking after Yourself
If someone close to you has been diagnosed with dementia, it's important not to underestimate the impact this may have on you. Whether you're the husband, wife, partner, daughter, son, brother, sister or friend of the person, your relationship will change. Many people find that they have taken on the role of a 'carer' without making any decision to do so.
When you're caring for someone with dementia, you're likely to experience a wide range of emotions at different times. These may range from positive feelings – you get satisfaction from supporting the person – to other feelings of loss, grief, guilt, embarrassment and anger. You may also feel awkward about any reversal of your previous roles. It can help to know that this is normal for lots of people caring for someone with dementia.
Try and take time to reflect on how you're feeling, and talk to someone you trust. You might choose a professional, a friend or family member, or someone at a carers' support group. You could try an online discussion and support forum like Talking Point.
As a carer, it can be easy to put the other person's needs first and ignore your own. Looking after yourself is vital for your own health and wellbeing. It will also help make sure you can do your best to care for the person with dementia.
It's important to make sure that you eat a balanced diet and make time for regular exercise and physical activity. Even going for a walk can help.
See your GP about your own health on a regular basis. If you're having problems sleeping, ask your doctor for advice. If you have to help move or lift the person you're caring for, ask your GP to refer you to a physiotherapist for advice so that you don’t risk injuring yourself. If you feel sad or anxious a lot of the time, talk to your GP about it as early as possible, as these could be signs of depression.
'It's really important to try and get some time on your own, for yourself. I go and read a book upstairs, or I take the dog out. You need that little space.' Ann, Wiltshire, carer for a person with dementia
Try to make sure you have some regular time to relax or do something just for yourself – this can have a big impact on your wellbeing. Try to get out regularly to meet friends.
If possible, consider an outing or short break, as this can relieve stress and leave you feeling refreshed. Find out about day care or respite support for the person you care for so that you can take time out knowing they are well looked after.